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DORNAN ENLISTS IN GOP RACE, TAKES AIM AT `MORAL DECAY'

Accusing his party's leading presidential contenders of ducking the tough issues, Rep. Bob Dornan joined the Republican field as a pro-military, pro-family crusader against America's "moral decay."

The combative, eight-term congressman from California kicked off his campaign Thursday at Washington's National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. He chose that site because "I love people who put their lives on the line."Although regarded as far back in the growing field of GOP presidential contenders, Dornan is well-known for his venomous denunciations of President Clinton and liberals like Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

Dornan appears to be holding nothing back despite suggestions by some that his style is too harsh and combative. On NBC's "Today" show, he referred to Clinton's "multiple adulteries" and "financial corruption" and said that during the Vietnam War, "I didn't send three high school guys to serve in my place." And in a barb at one of his fellow GOP presidential aspirants, he said Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas "never served his country (in the military) as I have."

The 62-year-old lawmaker from conservative Orange County says his main concerns are that Clinton is an inept commander in chief and that the nation is mired in moral decay and being "torn asunder by a national sin" - abortion.

He is hoping to draw support from conservatives who tend to dominate the GOP nomination process, especially in key states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.

But the same hot rhetoric that wins him admirers is likely to work against him, said GOP analyst Eddie Mahe.

"His rhetoric appeals to the fringe," Mahe contended. "Overheated rhetoric, overstatements. Entertaining, yes. But president, no way."

Dornan accused the leading candidates of eclipsing pro-family issues with an economic agenda. The national debt is horrendous, he said, but "it's not causing teenage suicide. It's not causing the contraction of fatal venereal diseases like AIDS."

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Powell undecided

Colin Powell, who has tantalized both Democrats and Republicans as a potential 1996 presidential candidate, remains undecided about his future, a spokesman said Thursday. The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs "is actively devoted to the writing of his memoirs," said spokesman Bill Smullen. "He has said repeatedly that while he's not going to rule anything in or out in terms of what he's going to do with the rest of his life, he has no fire burning in his belly at thispoint for politics." ||||||||